CORK could see a return to reporting zero new Covid-19 cases by February, but loosening restrictions too much could launch the country into a third wave, according to a Cork expert in infectious diseases.
The current Level 5 restrictions under the Government’s Living with Covid plan are due to be lifted on Tuesday.
Intense discussions on what restrictions should be introduced are continuing, with an announcement on what these could entail expected this week.
Speaking to, Prof Gerry Killeen, AXA Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology at the Environmental Research Institute and School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, at University College Cork said that he was concerned at the prospect of restrictions being loosened too much, too soon.
Prof Killeen said that a lot of people had taken time off during the October mid-term, and that the recent “bump” in figures could have been caused by a small relaxation.
“What a lot of people don’t realise is that the tiniest little bit of relaxation and you can flip right back into an epidemic growth trajectory - so those relaxations are just not worth it,” he said.
Looking to the expected change in restrictions expected to be announced later this week, the UCC Professor said that while everyone wants to have a Christmas, that the level of relaxation of restrictions and behaviours will impact how many cases will be subsequently reported adding “there’s a huge difference between a blip, a pause and a tidal wave.”
Prof Killeen said that level 2 restrictions won’t “hold back the tide” and if the country just re-opens then progress could be lost.
“If we just reopen - reopen the pubs, re-open retail, all that kind of stuff, then everything that everybody has done gets flushed away and we’re all back to square one and we find ourselves in the third wave,” he said.
“If we allow ourselves an inch or two we can get away with that and still leave ourselves with options in January and February - if we try and take a yard we’ll plough ourselves back into a third wave,” he added.
Professor Killeen remained hopeful however, adding that now could be a good time to “put our foot to the floor” adding “if we can get through Christmas with just a blip, rather than a tidal wave then I‘d say that’s a victory and that leaves us with options for the new year to finish this thing off.
“Some counties could be out of this in early January or February...Cork could be out of this by February - we wouldn't be out of this entirely but we could be down to zero cases per day, watching the news every day, and hoping that it keeps progressing.”